United States presidential contender Bernie Sanders on Saturday said India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir after revoking its special constitutional status were “unacceptable”, and said he was deeply concerned about the situation in the Valley.

Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, said the crackdown on dissent in Kashmir “in the name of security” impedes the access to medical care. “Even many respected doctors in India have acknowledged that the Indian government restrictions on travel are threatening the life-saving care that patients need,” Sanders said at a public meeting.

He said the communications blockade in Jammu and Kashmir must be lifted immediately. Sanders also added that the United States government must speak out boldly in support of international humanitarian law and support a United Nations-backed peaceful resolution that respects the will of the Kashmiri people.

A day earlier, US Congressman Andy Levin had also criticised the Narendra Modi-led administration’s decision on Jammu and Kashmir. He said Modi had trampled democratic norms and fundamental human rights and heightened long-simmering tensions between India and Pakistan.

Sanders, along with more than a dozen other candidates, is vying for the Democratic Party nomination for the right to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the election in November 2020.

Some other members of the US Congress have also expressed concern about the continuing communication restrictions and detentions in the Valley. “I am excited to see so many members joining us in calling attention to what is happening in Kashmir,” Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, tweeted, on August 30. “Please continue to call your members and ask them to speak up. We expect openness from India.”

Omar was referring to a comment from Ted Lieu, a California Democrat in the US House of Representatives. Earlier in the week, Lieu had said that he had heard from his constituents that they were unable to reach their families in Kashmir.

The United States had on Thursday said that it was “very concerned” about the reports of detentions and restrictions imposed on Jammu and Kashmir residents. The comments came three days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met United States President Donald Trump at the G-7 summit in France, where Trump said that the Indian prime minister had the Kashmir situation “under control”.

These developments come ahead of Modi’s visit to New York for the 74th session of the General Assembly later this month.

India, however, has said that the decisions it has taken for the region of Jammu and Kashmir are its internal matter. At the G-7 summit, Modi had rejected any possibility of a third party mediating in the Kashmir dispute as it was a bilateral matter for India and Pakistan.

Restrictions were imposed and communication lines were cut in Jammu and Kashmir a day before the central government’s August 5 announcement to revoke the state’s special status. Several leaders were also either put under house arrest or detained. The move drew stiff criticism from Opposition leaders, who have also been stopped, on multiple occasions, from visiting the state to assess the ground reality.

While authorities have claimed they are working on restoring communication lines gradually, sporadic protests in the Valley have slowed down the process. Reports suggest that authorities have used excessive force against protestors, with tear-gas shells and pellet guns being fired.

Also read: Kashmir and the rise of ethno-nationalism: A US Congressman’s perspective

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